Health

Young at higher risk of asthma attack, says charity

Amy Pay Image copyright Amy Pay

Young people are at a higher risk of having an asthma attack than any other age group living with the condition, the charity Asthma UK is warning.

The findings come from a poll of more than 10,000 people with asthma, which also found that young adults are twice as likely as people over 60 to need emergency care for their condition.

Amy Pay, 27, from Cardiff, says she used to be complacent about her asthma.

"People don't realise asthma can be a killer, even when you're young.

"I didn't take my asthma seriously - I used to skip doses of my preventer inhaler and didn't think about the consequences.

"When I started to wake at night feeling breathless and coughing, I didn't realise that these were red flags that my asthma was getting worse. Eventually I couldn't even walk down the street without stopping to catch my breath. I made an emergency appointment with my asthma nurse who told me if I had left it any longer I could have been in serious danger."

Amy says it was the wake-up call she needed.

"Now I make sure I take my preventer inhaler as prescribed and I know what to do if my symptoms are getting worse. I'll never forget what it felt like to struggle to breathe - I won't be complacent about my asthma again. I want other people my age to take their asthma seriously. It could save their life."

The survey

According to the Asthma UK survey, which included 751 replies from people aged 18-29, two-thirds (67%) of young adults said they were not getting basic asthma care, higher than any other age group.

Basic care includes having a written asthma action plan, an annual review and an inhaler technique check.

Asthma UK says that there are a number of reasons why young adults may be getting worse asthma care, including a complacency around the seriousness of asthma or an inability to get a GP appointment.

  • More than a quarter (28%) of the young people in the survey said they did not attend their asthma review
  • More than one in 10 (12%) said that their GP surgery was too busy, so they were unable to book a review
  • More than half (57%) said they did not receive a reminder that their review was due

Dr Samantha Walker, Asthma UK's director of research and policy, said: "Healthcare professionals need to make sure they are giving everyone with asthma guidelines-based basic care, and people with asthma of all ages should take responsibility for their own health by attending appointments and taking their medication as prescribed."

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Asthma must never be underestimated as it is a serious condition that can claim lives in any age group.

"We really sympathise with our younger patients who are finding it hard to book a GP appointment, but we are working harder than ever and seeing more patients than ever. Unfortunately, we have a chronic shortage of family doctors right across the country because investment in our service has not kept pace with demand and there is a limit beyond which we can no longer guarantee safe care.

"GPs and our teams are highly trained to manage asthma in partnership with our patients, including identifying symptoms, prescribing appropriately and monitoring treatment.

"We encourage the use of personal asthma action plans for patients and we aim to work with all patients with high-risk conditions to ensure they are undergoing regular reviews.

"It is also vitally important that patients understand their own treatment and how to properly use equipment, such as inhalers, spacer devices and peak flow meters, and GPs take every step to encourage patients of all ages to feel more confident about managing their condition effectively and appropriately."

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